Levi (Bet ha-Levi), Jacob ben Israel

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LEVI (Bet ha-Levi), JACOB BEN ISRAEL

LEVI (Bet ha-Levi ), JACOB BEN ISRAEL (second half of 16th century–1636), halakhist and scholar. A member of the famous Bet ha-*Levi family, Jacob grew up in Salonika, where he studied in the local yeshivot. He studied halakhah with R. Aaron ibn Ḥasson and philosophy with R. David ibn Shushan (see his approbation (haskamah) to the Sefer Illem of 1629). He moved from Salonika to Xanthe, where he served as rabbi of the town and its environs, and then went to Venice. Jacob became famous for his responsa (1612; complete edition, Venice, 1632–34), and his sermons and translation of the Koran are extant in manuscript. He translated the Koran from Arabic "to a Christian language [Latin?] and from the latter into the holy tongue." In Italy he was apparently an affluent businessman who established close contact with the authorities, apparently as a result of his intellectual attainments. The great rabbis of Salonika, Greece, and Italy of the early 17th century gave their endorsements to his responsa, and answered the halakhic queries which he addressed to them. Some of his responsa appear in the works of these rabbis, and similarly, his approbations to several books printed in Italy and elsewhere have been published.

bibliography:

Solomon (ii) le-Bet ha-Levi, Responsa (Salonika, 1652), oḤ, no. 8; A. Figo, Binah la-Ittim (Venice, 1648), 191–3; Literaturblatt des Orients, 2 (1841), 606–7; Steinschneider, Cat Bod, 1221, no. 5550.

[Joseph Hacker]